Episode 1 of Echo 3 begins in the forests of Colombia. Dr. Amber Chesborough and two of her compatriots are held at gunpoint by rebels. The screen goes black as shots go off.
Cut to 6 months before this incident and it’s Amber’s wedding. She is getting married to Prince, who is in the same unit, “Echo 3”, as her brother Alex (a.k.a., Bambi). She has the jitters and asks her bridesmaid to call Bambi in. When Amber asks him if she is making the right decision, Bambi cites their love as the main catalyst. It will ensure that happiness always remains in the marriage. His words help but Amber also reminds him of his added duty to make sure he brings Prince home at any cost from “flyaway” missions they complete.
Prince comes from money. His father attends the wedding with a younger partner, with no sign of his mother in the picture. Amber’s mother is a drug addict, which is why she took up the study of Alkaloids to find a cure for drug addiction. She joins the festivities and boldly asks Bambi to look after Amber. Bambi also meets Roy Lennon, ex-New Zealand team, at the wedding. The celebrations are in full flow as Amber and Prince enjoy their time on the dance floor. Echo 3 team is almost drunk when Drifter, their leader, receives a call for a “flyaway” the next morning.
They have a mission to rescue a hostage but Drifter allows Prince to have the night. Amber is disappointed when she learns the news but understands Prince has to go. The hostage is a journalist. The terrain is a difficult one as the snow has covered most of the hills, making it difficult to stabilize the “bird” (the plane). As Prince starts descending using a rope, the terrorists who are holding the journalist, start firing. To prevent the bird from being in the firing line, Prince is forced into jumping on land so that it can go to a safe space. Drifter and Bambi refuse to leave Prince hanging and the team descends some miles down the hill to retrieve their man.
The terrorists come out to meet their enemies and bring the journalist with them. While a handful unwittingly approaches the team directly, some others stay back to man the machine guns. Another group goes to intercept Prince. Seeing that they are coming directly to them and Prince is in the opposite direction, Drifter and Bambi make the decision to hold their positions and ask Prince to stay hidden. One by one, the team starts taking out the terrorists, who are not as trained as them. They retrieve the journalist and then head toward Prince.
The group that had left to follow Prince’s trail catches up with him and injures his leg. He is able to fight back and kill a couple but there is still one left. Drifter goes out to meet the terrorist handling the machine gun and shoots him down. Unknown to him, there is another fighter hiding in the bushes, who fatally shoots Drifter. Bambi is caught between a hard place and a rock. On one hand, he has the option to retrieve Drifter. On the other, he can go to Prince to save him as he is injured too.
Bambi first calls out for Drifter on the comms but the leader shows courage and sacrifice by not responding. He is still alive but somehow feels Prince has a better chance of getting saved. Other members of the team cannot aid Bambi, and he has the tough decision to abandon Drifter and save Prince.
Even so many weeks after the incident, Prince is reeling with the aftereffects. His struggle and guilt are internal, as he feels he is partly responsible for Drifter’s death. Amber tries to console him and make him realize he could not have done anything else, but Prince grows aloof. She asks Bambi to intervene and talk to him. At dinner that night, Prince takes offense when Bambi mentions that Drifter’s kids have taken after him and are doing well. They have a fight. In the shouting, Bambi tries to explain to Prince that Drifter knew the risks he was getting into and there is nothing any of them could have done to save him.
Prince is “hypothecalizing” and needs to stop. He fights with Amber when she does not take his side and the two are almost about to engage in hate sex when Prince gives Amber a “beacon”, something that will allow him to track her in the forests of Colombia, as they have no cellular signal. Amber takes offense and goes out for a run. At a RedX (science convention), she explains her theory of using alkaloids to develop a cure for drug addiction. She is going to Colombia to investigate the local ecology for clues.
Her mentor in the lab, Arthur, says to her that with her grasp on alkaloids, she can be the next “Timothy Leary”. She meets the team in Colombia and starts her research. In one of the rituals where the mind is forced to remember and confront past memories and traumas, she remembers her childhood. A few weeks later, Bambi and his mother discuss Amber. She hasn’t called him in a while and he is getting worried. She asks him to go down to the forest and bring her back, as she stereotypes the local culture.
In the next scene, we see the men from the beginning come to confront Amber and the others. While the local scientists dismiss them as town people, they seem a bit more threatening. They question the expedition’s motive and despite seeing the authentic letter that gives them permission, they still turn the equipment upside down. Although everything seems fine, they take offense when they find the beacon that Prince had surreptitiously put in Amber’s backpack. We cut to the first scene in the episode Amber praying at gunpoint.
Prince calls Bambi and they discuss options to rescue Amber as he feels she is in danger. He tracks the location of the beacon to the foot of the hills. Bambi reveals to Prince that Amber needs to be sterile as she is doing some fieldwork for Mitch and the Agency. She is a subcontractor but not an officer. Prince is outraged when he learns she works for the CIA. Bambi then proceeds to mock Prince’s life of excesses and they fight.
Bambi receives a call from Langley, informing them that she and two other scientists have been taken by an ELN guerrilla group. The others have been executed but she is okay. Prince and Bambi decide to rescue her.
The Episode Review
Mark Boal’s newest series hits the ground running in episode 1. The writer has tasted serial success with this genre before and his understanding places him in a great position to recontextualize the original Israeli story in the political fabric of the Americas.
Echo 3 makes a fast start in the premiere. Most of the setting up for the central conceit happens quite smoothly. Luke Evans and Michiel Huisman complete an impressive debut as the bitter-sweet duo. The show promises some compelling and at times uncomfortable truths about America’s chequered foreign policy, as well as a raging maelstrom of emotions waiting to explode.
Jessie Collins might just turn out to be a surprise package. Her screen presence and ability to hold you with little dialogue will be key in certain moments. This rescue story has paced well in episode 1. Onwards and upwards from here!